What Causes a Heat-Related Illness?
You’re likely familiar with cold-weather causing you to get sick, but did you know that you can also get a heat-related illness?
Hotter weather means that a greater burden is placed on your body. 1 in 9 outdoor workers has a core body temperature above the defined heat strain criteria.
If you continue to push yourself past this point, it can cause you to come down with an illness like heat stroke, heat exhaustion, or hyperthermia. Any of these ailments can be quite serious and require immediate attention!
It’s a much better idea to understand how they’re caused so that you can prevent getting one in the first place. We’ll go over this below to help keep you healthy!
What Is a Heat-Related Illness?
First, you should know what a heat-related illness is. It can be defined as an ailment suffered by spending time or working in the sun.
Extending yourself in any extreme condition, whether it’s cold or hot, heavily taxes your body. As a result, the likelihood of an illness or injury directly increases.
Concerning heat-related illnesses, this can be an array of conditions. Anything from heat stroke to heat cramps can be debilitating.
Anytime you’re out in hot weather, you need to take it easy to avoid getting ill.
One of the biggest causes of a heat-related illness is dehydration.
When you spend time in hot weather, your body will naturally expend more water to cool down. Sweating will remove precious water from your body.
This is not necessarily life-threatening, but failing to rehydrate is where issues occur. It’s natural to lose water, but replenishing it is what keeps you from getting sick.
Dehydration is incredibly dangerous and can increase the likelihood of any number of conditions. If you’re feeling thirsty, then you’re already dehydrated.
Because of this, you must make a conscious effort to regularly drink water and keep yourself hydrated! Don’t go hours in between drinking and think that chugging a whole bottle of water will make up for it later!
Another important factor is overexertion. This means working too hard considering the conditions.
In hot weather, your body will work harder to complete the same task compared to doing it in cooler conditions. To understand this, picture carrying 10 bags, each weighing 50 pounds, across 25 feet one at a time and then dropping them.
First, imagine trying to do it in 60ºF weather and then think about trying it in 90ºF weather. Which will be harder? It’s undoubtedly harder to carry the same amount of weight when it’s 90ºF outside.
You might be able to do this in both temperatures, but you will exert yourself more in hotter weather. This means that you’re overall capable of doing less work in hot weather.
As a result, it’s easy to overdo it. You may know that you’re capable of completing a task in normal conditions, so you may not factor in the hot weather.
This is a big mistake and can easily cause you to develop a heat-related illness.
Poor ventilation can also lead to heat-related illnesses.
One thing that helps when you’re trying to work in hot weather is cooling down. This can be done by taking advantage of a natural breeze or using fans.
However, if you’re working in conditions without ventilation, meaning that the hot air is stagnating, you’re creating a dangerous situation. There is no airflow to cool you down.
You can make the surrounding area even hotter by trying to work in it. Your activity will heat both you and your working area, which creates a negative feedback loop that can quickly cause heat-related illness.
The final thing to watch out for is particularly high heat.
There’s certainly a difference between working in 60ºF and 80ºF, but there’s also a difference between 80ºF and 100ºF. As the temperature increases, there is a direct relationship with how hard your body must work to cool you down and how much effort that you’re expending.
Because of this, you should avoid working in high heat if possible. If it isn’t, then you need to take frequent breaks to keep your body temperature regular and avoid heat exhaustion.
Furthermore, try to avoid working in direct sunlight. This intense exposure can increase the likelihood and severity of a heat-related illness.
If you ever work outside, then you should be careful and consider the possibility of a heat-related illness. This is an ailment suffered as a result of trying to work in hot temperatures.
A few factors that make one more likely include dehydration, overexertion, poor ventilation, and high heat.
Should you need to work in hot weather, make sure to stay hydrated and take it easy! Also, try to keep airflow present and steer clear of direct sunlight. Heat-related illnesses are awful to deal with and they’re never worth trying to get something finished!